#OneEastToronto — Meet Leah Palmer

Leah Palmer wearing a mask inside Michael Garron Hospital

#OneEastToronto shares the faces of East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), a group of more than 50 community, primary care, home care, hospital and social services organizations in East Toronto working together to improve the way local residents access and receive care. Meet Leah Palmer, manager of integrated mental health and substance use at South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) and Michael Garron Hospital (MGH).

“I’ve worked in East Toronto for more than 30 years. I’ve spent a large portion of that time on the frontlines as a registered social worker and later, in a managerial role at SRCHC where I’ve had the opportunity to work with people living with mental health, substance use and chronic disease concerns. So this dual position with MGH, which I started in September, feels like a perfect fit for me.”

A big part of my job involves building bridges that are structurally and functionally sound. We want to be able to foster relationships across East Toronto so we can provide high-quality, evidence-based services that are meaningful, inclusive and responsive to the needs of our clients, some of whom are among the most marginalized and at-risk in our communities. We want to be able to work with our clients to co-design and co-implement an integrated healthcare system that supports positive health outcomes and patient experiences.

We’re doing this by building our capacity to offer all-gender withdrawal management services at MGH’s withdrawal management centre, for example. Right now, there aren’t many withdrawal management beds in East Toronto, or Toronto for that matter, that are relevant, accessible and inclusive for people across all gender identities and expression. So from a health equity standpoint, it makes sense to address this gap so we can ensure our services are reflective of our communities’ needs.

We’re also currently working on developing a Safer Opiate Supply (SOS) program and a shelter-hotel harm reduction program. The SOS program provides a regulated drug supply for people who use substances in East Toronto, while the shelter-hotel harm reduction program would provide short-term harm reduction, education and case management for people who use substances living in shelter hotels. I’m also very interested in bolstering trauma supports for both our clients and frontline workers given the ongoing pandemic and opioid crisis.

My hope is that, through ETHP, health care providers do not have to do this work in silos or in isolation.  The work we have ahead of us relies heavily on our collective capacity to move in tandem toward our shared goals and visions for our communities. I feel really privileged to be able to work with a wide range of people who bring such diverse perspectives to the table. In my three decades of working in health care in East Toronto, I’ve never been more excited than about the possibilities that our ETHP network has presented.”

Are you a member of East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP) who is interested in being featuring in our #OneEastToronto series or know someone who would be a great fit? Please email Lucy Lau, corporate communications coordinator at ETHP, at lucy.lau@tehn.ca.